Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.
This is the debut novel from Les Wood, a Glaswegian writer, who knows how to write convincingly about the Glasgow underworld and its characters. Dark Side of the Moon is an object lesson in how not to pull off what was meant to be the greatest jewel robbery ever seen in the UK.
Boddice is a small time crook; loan sharking, protection money, who can see his turf being eyed up by newly arrived Eastern European gangsters. He’s realised that his slice of the action may not be his for much longer. So he comes up with a masterplan that could make them all rich, summoning his gang of master criminals to a meet in a derelict Bingo hall. Along the way we meet them: Prentice, the identical Wilson twins, Boag, Kyle and the very unlikeable Leggett.
Prentice is haunted by finding a baby next to a dead junkie in a flat, leaving it to be found on a bus, but instead it’s discovered dead. The Wilson twins are tattoo artists who are so talented that they can misspell a customer’s request on an intimate part of his anatomy and Boag, a homeless vagrant who steals an old woman’s lucky lighter to find out that it brings him anything but luck. Leggett is about to get his comeuppance after undercutting Boddice when drug dealing and then there’s Kyle. These are not lovable rogues, in fact quite the opposite.
Boddice outlines his plan but the assembled crew of misfits are puzzled as to how they are going to succeed. He’s convinced that they are going to steal the Dark Side of the Moon of the book’s title, a flawless purple diamond which is about to go on display at a swanky Glasgow department store. Once in their hands they will then ransom it back to its owners. Boddice has it all worked out; the twins will, via an insider, obtain jobs as security guards and pretend to be one person and Boag will create bombs with his ‘special’ blend of gunpowder. He will also recreate the chamber in which the diamond is displayed with tape in place of lasers and have a devious method of seizing the prize. What can possibly go wrong?
However, these are not Glasgow’s finest by any means. They’re falling through the cracks of life and debut author Wood realistically portrays Glasgow’s underbelly of no-hopers killing time in arcades, wandering city streets to find somewhere to sleep while being outside a society that pretends it doesn’t see them.
And so the heist begins and soon starts to fall apart at the seams. The recreation of the diamond’s display room has the wrong measurements as someone was wearing shoes when they took them and so Boag’s master weapon, a B & Q litter picker can’t reach the jewel. There’s also Leggett’s determination to have his revenge on them all in person. But who is Miss McKinnon, the store’s Head of Security actually working for?
Wood’s writing throughout is taut and convincing but it really comes to the fore in the two final sections, as events come together in a fiery and unpredictable end.
Although I felt that the dialogue was authentic and believable, however in one or two places it baffled me. For example, on page 97, the phrase ‘glaikit wee jakey’ was used which didn’t mean much so a mini-glossary would have been useful. Also; when using a well-known song title to name your book you have to be careful as it can have all kinds of connotations for the reader. There’s also the temptation to use song titles as chapter headings as does the author here. They had the effect on me of thinking about the song and where I heard it. So this framing device should to be used sparingly in my opinion
But in the end, this is an assured debut from a new writer, and Les Wood is definitely a name to watch.